News & Insights

Rare WWI Memorial Plaque and Peninsula/Waterloo Pair come to auction

26th July 2021.

A rare First World War Memorial Plaque in memory of Nursing Sister Emily Dawes is to be sold in Tennants Auctioneers’ Militaria and Ethnographica Sale on 8th September with an estimate of £3,000-5,000 plus buyer’s premium.

Memorial Plaques were issued to the next of kin of all British Empire service personnel who died as a result of the First World War and were nicknamed the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’. Made from bronze and measuring 120mm in diameter, the plaque was designed by Edward Carter Preston and depict Britannia holding an olive wreath with a lion, an oak branch, and the name of the deceased in a tablet. Around the outside is the legend ‘HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR’, altered to ‘SHE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR’ for female personnel as in this case. Over 1.3m plaques were issued, of which it is thought that over 600 were awarded to women.

Alice Emily Dawes, known as Emily, was born in London on 7th December 1889, and enlisted in the Army on 15th October 1917. She served as a Nursing Sister with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service but died of influenza and pneumonia on 23rd October 1918. Emily was buried in Bedford Cemetery in a Commonwealth War Grave. 

The plaque is sold a fitted leather case and copies of research material.


Also included in the sale is are rare medals awarded to Corporal John Rushton who fought in the Battle of Waterloo (estimate £4,000-5,000 plus buyer’s premium).  The medals comprise a Military General Service Medal with clasp for Talavera, and the Waterloo Medal.

John Rushton, a labourer from Elston, Nottinghamshire, was born circa 1792. He enlisted in the 23rd Regiment Light Dragoons in 1808 and went on to fight at the Battle of Talavera in 1809, which took place southwest of Madrid as part of the Peninsular War. The 23rd Regiment bore the brunt of the British attach on the French Infantry, and Rushton was wounded alongside 3717 of his comrades. He was promoted to Corporal in 1815, and in the same year fought at Waterloo, and he is listed on the Waterloo Medal Roll. He was discharged in 1817 when his regiment was disbanded, was admitted as a Chelsea Pensioner in 1853 at the age of 61 and died in 1866.

Tennants’ Militaria Specialist says of the medals: ‘It is rare to have a pair of such medals, as they are often split up and sold separately, and as such they will be of great interest to collectors. Corporal Rushton served with the 23rd Regiment of Light Dragoons which is well known to have suffered great casualties at Talavera, only 252 men of a total of 459 survived. Corporal Rushton was one of those rare survivors and was one of 100 of his regiment to receive the Talavera clasp for the Military General Service Medal.

Whilst the complete history of the medals is unknown, the vendor believes that the medals came into his family through his Great-Great-Great Grandfather who owned an auction house in Newark, Nottinghamshire. Corporal Rushton was from near Newark, so it is possible that he put his medals in for auction to raise money when he was pensioned off injured.


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